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Mincberg, Leib

(1887–1943), manufacturer, head of the Łódź  kehilah, Polish parliamentary deputy, and leader of Agudas Yisroel. Born in Radom to a Hasidic family, Leib Mincberg received a traditional education yet also learned several European languages. Upon his marriage into a Gerer Hasidic family, he transferred his allegiance to that dynasty. With the outbreak of World War I, Mincberg moved to Łódź, where he began a successful career in manufacturing.

As an early adherent of Agudas Yisroel who helped organize the movement in his city, Mincberg was a typical representative of one of the mainstays of Aguda’s political leadership: he was a wealthy Orthodox businessman who devoted a considerable part of his time to community service (alongside rabbis and some younger political functionaries who had grown up in the party).

Mincberg’s political career officially began in 1921, when he was elected to the Łódź city council. With the exception of 1928–1930, he served in the Polish Sejm (parliament) from 1922 to 1939. He was a member of the commercial and industrial affairs committee, but much of his time was dedicated to aiding individuals and institutions suffering discrimination at the hands of Polish officials. One of the lone Jewish voices in parliament in the late 1930s, Mincberg continued to appeal to economic reason and Polish national honor in a vain attempt to reverse the growing anti-Jewish trends in Polish politics.

In 1928, Mincberg and his Agudas Yisroel faction took over the leadership of the Łódź  kehilah under controversial circumstances and with considerable evidence of governmental interference. Mincberg remained president of the kehilah until 1939. His administration was marked by attempts to introduce efficient management and provide reliable services to the Jewish population. Although his abrasive, often dictatorial personality antagonized his political opponents as well as allies, he continued to be nominated to the kehilah, city council, and the Sejm.

As an outspoken leader of the Jewish community, Mincberg felt himself in special danger following the German invasion of Poland; accordingly, he fled to Vilna. There he attempted to escape abroad but was unable to obtain an exit visa from Soviet officials. While in Vilna, Mincberg helped provide aid to refugees. Following Germany’s attack against the Soviet Union and the occupation of Vilna, Mincberg’s wife was murdered. Several months later he moved to Białystok, where he was put in charge of a factory in the ghetto. Mincberg died during the liquidation of the ghetto in July 1943.

Suggested Reading

Gershon C. Bacon, The Politics of Tradition: Agudat Yisrael in Poland, 1916–1939 (Jerusalem, 1996); Isaac Lewin, ed., “R. Leib Mincberg,” in Eleh ezkerah: Osef toldot kedoshe 5700–5705, vol. 2, pp. 9–15 (New York, 1957); Robert Moses Shapiro, “Aspects of Jewish Self-Government in Łódź, 1914–1939,” Polin 6 (1991): 133–154.